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June 04, 2007

Will First-Responders Show Up for Work During a Pandemic? Lessons From a Smallpox Vaccination Survey of Paramedics.

Disaster Manag Response. 2007 April - June; 5(2): 45-48
Mackler N, Wilkerson W, Cinti S

BACKGROUND: The presence of H5N1 influenza in Southeast Asia has reawakened fears of a worldwide influenza pandemic of the sort that occurred in 1918. It is estimated that up to 1.9 million people in the United States could die if such an outbreak occurs. It is unlikely that a vaccine for a pandemic strain will be available quickly enough to protect first-responders. Similar concerns existed in 2002 when the United States attempted to vaccinate first-responders against smallpox, a potential biologic weapon. METHOD: We conducted a survey of one group of first-responders, paramedics, to determine if fear of infection would compromise their ability to care for persons potentially infected with smallpox. RESULTS: Three hundred paramedics were given the survey, and 95 (32%) responded. More than 80% of paramedics polled would not remain on duty if there were no vaccine and no protective gear. Even if protective gear was available but the vaccine was unavailable, only 39% of respondents would remain on duty. Finally, although 91% of paramedics would remain on duty if they were fully protected, this number falls to 38% if the respondent believed that his or her immediate family was not protected. The results of this survey are relevant to current concerns about an influenza pandemic. Every effort must be made to protect first-responders from pandemic influenza and educate them about it.

Posted by dymaxion at June 4, 2007 10:41 PM

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